10 Best Swimming Holes in New England
For a truly old-fashioned, New England dose of summer pleasure, get your bathing suit and go jump in a swimming hole. We polled waterfall and swimming-hole experts for their top picks from Maine to Massachusetts for the 10 best swimming holes in New England.
FRENCHMEN’S HOLE, Sunday River, ME
A giant pothole below a 10-foot waterfall was a local best-kept secret for years, but now savvy swimmers know it lies just a few miles beyond Sunday River Ski Resort. There are even a few picnic tables here, so pack a lunch and stay for the day. Get there: From the junction of ME 5, ME 26, and US-2 in downtown Bethel, take the combined highway ME 5 north, ME 26 north and US-2 east, heading towards the Sunday River Ski Resort and the town of Newry. Travel on this highway for 2.7 miles and take a left onto Sunday River Rd, which is the access road for the ski resort. Travel on Sunday River Rd for 2.1 miles and you will approach a fork in the road. Veer right and continue another 1.0 mile to another fork. Fork right again, and travel an additional 4.4 miles along Sunday River Rd (turning into dirt at mile 3.1). Next you will want to take a left onto a dirt road that immediately travels over two old bridges. Just after the bridges, take a right and follow this new dirt road for 0.6 mile and the large parking pull offs will be on the right.
EMERALD POOL/CHARLES BOOK, Cold River Campground, White Mountain National Forest, ME/NH Border
Consider spending a few days in this campground in the White Mountain National Forest; it’s a treasure-trove of easy hikes and gorgeous swimming holes, including this deep beauty in the Charles Brook. If it’s a bit crowded, there’s a smaller, lesser-known sister pool above the falls. Get there: From the AMC Cold River Camp, follow the trail signs to Emerald Pool.
ENDERS FALLS, Granby, CT
This is a glorious string of five waterfalls in Connecticut’s Enders State Forest, and several of them have lovely pools for swimming. Don’t miss the final pool, which lies at the base of a 15-foot falls, and is less visited. Get there: From the junction of US-20, CT 189, CT 10 and CT 202 in the town of Granby, take US-20 west for 3.6 miles to its junction with CT 219. Take a left onto CT 219 south (also called Barkhamsted Rd), and drive 1.3 miles. The parking lot will be on your left, marked with a sign for “Enders State Forest”.
FRANCONIA FALLS, Lincoln, NH
Want a waterslide adventure with your swimming-hole fun? There’s no better destination than taking this easy 3-mile trail in the White Mountains to a jumble of smooth and sun-drenched slabs and shallow pools. There’s a 20-foot slide near the base of the lowest falls. Get there: From I-93 in Lincoln, take exit 32. Take NH 112 east for 5.2 miles and take a left into the Lincoln Woods parking area just after crossing a bridge over the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River. The Lincoln Woods parking area is 2.1 miles west of the Big Rock Campground and 0.3 mile east of the Hancock Campground.
LOWER FALLS, Albany, NH
Iconic and beloved for a reason, this bundle of cascades and pools is just steps from New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway, so it’s the perfect spur-of-the-moment stop (just make sure you’ve got your swimsuit). Bathrooms, picnic grounds, and grills make it a great family spot as well. Get there: Lower Falls is a marked parking lot on the Kancamagus Highway (NH 112), 6.9 miles west of the juncture with NH16 in Conway. Parking is $3. (Lower Falls is closed for the summer 2014 season due to construction, but keep it on your list for next year!)
BARTLETT FALLS, Bristol, VT
You won’t believe your eyes when you come upon this pool, nearly 120 feet long and 40 feet wide, with magical yellow-green water and a 15-foot waterfall dropping into it from above (slip behind the overhanging ledge into an alcove behind those falls). Get there: Take VT116N/VT17E for 2.8 miles from Bristol, to Lincoln Road. Turn right and park after 0.2 mile. A number of trails lead to the falls/swimming hole.
WARREN FALLS, Warren, VT
Like something out of Lord of the Rings, this emerald pool on the Mad River in northern Vermont is considered by swimming-hole aficionados to be the best of many great ones on the river. For the adventurous, this is a classic jumping location, but always use caution. Get there: From Warren, take VT100S; watch for a dirt parking pull-off on the right. Look about 20 feet into the woods to spot an informative billboard about the falls.
BUCK RIVER, Sandisfield, MA
For swimming and sliding, this spot in the southeastern Berkshires offers 12 feet of slick sliding, as well as lots of beautiful rocks to perch on to dry off after plunging in a small pool that’s 7 feet deep. Just a bit above this pool is another pool shallow enough to sit in with its own 6-foot slide. Get there: From New Boston, take MA57W to Sandisfield. The hole is located on the south side of the road, between the post office and town hall.
WHIRLEY BATHS, Charlemont, MA
The Deerfield River is a summer delight for miles, but this popular swimming hole is among its best (and easiest to get to) pools. The name comes from the gentle whitewater that swirls around the shallow baths here. For more swimming, there’s a large pool at the end of the cascades. Get there: From North Adams, take MA2E past the Charlemont town line sign—the parking area will be 1.3 miles down the road (note the 30-minute parking limit).
OLNEY POND, Lincoln, Rhode Island
This beautiful freshwater pond in Lincoln Woods State Park has a sandy beach for the civilized approach, and there are plenty of huge glacial boulders and outcroppings at other spots for more old-school swimming (and privacy). Get there: Take RI146N from Providence, and follow signs to the Park entrance.
To learn about more of the best swimming holes in New England, pick up a copy of New England Waterfalls: A Guide to More Than 400 Cascades And Waterfalls by Greg Parsons and Kate Watson.
Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.